Summer, Day 1, 2016

It’s really been about a week of this, but today somehow seemed to hit home for me. The air, the sunshine, getting to leave the door open (with the screen closed, of course, to keep the invading wasps outside where they belong).

Sometimes I struggle with being very global-minded, which means I see the entire picture. Not a detail, not one part, but every single part. It means I am very, very good at multi-tasking and dealing with multiple children, and I can tell you the entirety of a movie or book that I have only seen/read once. It also means that I often get overwhelmed. The house is messy? I see the whole mess: dishes, laundry, toys, socks on the floor, food and crumbs on the dining room floor, shoes all a-scramble by the door, coats and gloves-without-matches creeping their way through my living room, kids clothes that are out of season and suddenly too small needing to be changed over and, of course, my boys can rarely keep the clean and the dirty separate… I mean, who puts clothes in drawers and hampers? So sometimes I just melt down because I see ALL OF IT and it’s all equally important, and I just don’t know what to do.

Then I found my old copies of the Little House books on my shelf, lovingly worn books my mom read to me since I was small that she recently passed on to me, and I pulled down Little House in the Big Woods and started to read.

I don’t know what it is about this book. I love all of the books; really, really love them, but there is something about Big Woods that just zones me. Something about Ma and Pa going about daily life, methodical and intentional and simple and happy, refocuses me and helps me look at my own house and see what to do. Suddenly everything wasn’t a mess around me, and by reading a little bit each day I receive a daily dose of Focus and I do the dishes, I make the meals, I sweep the floors, the kids do chores and school… and guys, I am getting extra done. My counters got cleaned off of the miscellaneous stacks that pile up (a result of my youngest now knowing how to walk and growing tall enough to catch things off the table and pull them off onto himself). I de-caned, fertilized, and mulched our patch of baby raspberries. I cleaned out the rhubarb patch. I planned my garden. I finished my book… honestly, I don’t know what happened. Where did this energy come from? Where did my time come from? But I swear that every time I read Big Woods it re-centers me and this miracle happens again and again. I think, in part, it helps me focus on today. I mean, God tells us we’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow. He tells us to just think about today, and it’s so easy for anyone but for a global-brained person it is especially easy to succumb to worry and becoming overwhelmed. And I realized that I don’t have to get it all done today, I just have to get a piece done. Who cares what that piece is; whatever I do, it’s one more thing than I had gotten done before. Hoorah!!!!

We put up the hummingbird feeder today. My kids did their chores, ate a good breakfast, my 1st grader did his school and my preschooler watched his science video, and then out they went into the warm sunshine to play and I got the entire Mount Everest pile of laundry on my futon folded, made a batch of hummingbird syrup, and while that cooled I and the kids marched down to Sackett Man’s shed and found the rain gauge, a piece of garden decor, and the humming bird feeder. We put up the rain gauge, stuck the garden decor in the ground attractively, and the kids crowded around in fascination as mother hung almost upside down on the shepherd’s crook that the feeder hangs decorously from.

You may laugh, but that thing is a beast to force into the ground. I leaped on it, hung from it, planted my feet and grabbed it and heaved, red-faced and sweating, till FINALLY that pointed end sank into the ground deeply enough to be stable.

Then they cheered, I grinned through the pain of pulled muscles, and then they crowded around and watched as I lifted the small sauce pan of syrup and poured it into the feeder, and screwed it shut. I hung it up, and we watched the glass and syrup glitter in the sunlight, and then we went inside for a cool drink and supper.

Now it’s bathtime, and the boys are laughing and playing upstairs while I bathe my daughter. And I feel so good and so happy.

Thank you, Ma Ingalls. Thank you, God.

The First Sign of Spring

It has been so warm the last few days. From cold Wisconsin winter weather to 60˚F. GORGEOUS! My boys have been outside more this week than they have in the last two months. Getting wet and muddy, thanks to the melting snow, but having a blast. And excepting today, it’s been sunny too. Sun! I’m a sun addict. I can actually feel sunshine like a physical touch, and my body literally feels like it’s soaking it in. Like, actually soaking. Of course today is grey and dreary, and it is so windy that out protected little homestead (surrounded on three sides by wooded hills) is being buffeted and blown. That’s windy, my friends.

A few days ago my Mom was visiting. Because she was here to chase after my rambunctious 22 month old daughter (I can do little chasing these days), my little girl actually got to go outside, and I didn’t have to worry about the muddy, spring-mess she might eat or coat herself in.

What a wonderful treat for us all. My two sons ran about the yard, my husband busied himself happily with work in the fresh air, I got to sit on the deck and soak the sunlight and chat with my Mom, and Rose got to run about our large deck and play in the sunshine, breeze, and balmy 55˚ air. Her blue eyes shone, her cheeks flushed pink, her golden hair bounced around her neck in wisps and baby curls.

She wanted a good cuddling when we came in later. That much fresh air after a long winter of very little does a little girl in. I held her, wrapped up in my arms and her little blanket, and stroked her head while she just rested and listened to Mommy and Grandma. And this is where I found the First Sign of Spring.

The smell of sunshine in her hair.

Yes, little kids actually trap sunshine in their hair. And yes, it has a scent. A lovely, nothing-else-like-it scent that you could just breathe in for hours and hours. Warm weather in March in Wisconsin does not always mean much; it can turn on you in the blink of an eye. But the warm smell of sunshine in the hair of a child?

Hello, Spring. 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 2.45.00 PM

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

How does time get away from us? Imagine my surprise (and guilt) when I connected here to discover that the last time I had posted was February 12th, and here it is March 26th.

Shame on me.

A lot has been keeping me busy. We had the Memorial for Sackett Man’s grandmother. Another grandparent had to go to the hospital, as did another, and two of them moved into a nursing home. I’m doing preschool at home with Roman, James outgrew his clothes and I had to go burrowing into boxes in the basement to find any that did fit, and Rose is crawling, walking along furniture, and getting into everything. I’ve written 13 chapters in a ff story, and have been arranging babysitting services for our kids during a business trip Sackett Man and I are taking in April.

But I’m still ashamed. So forgive me.

On the other hand, I’ve had lots of wonderful recipes I’ve been making, and let’s just say that life with children 5 and under is a huge adventure. And we’ve gotten more snow. Again. And again.

I’ve consoled myself by baking desserts for the family and pretending that Christmas is coming twice this year.

Spring is here at last! Can't you tell?

Spring is here at last! Can’t you tell?

Mom and I are also going through the seeds we’ve got waiting in a bag in the fridge, and planning our two big gardens. We’re going to create some mounds in the snow for the squash, watermelon, and potatoes, and we’re going to plow some nice long rows and plant the seeds in the snow. Then the summer thaw come and we’ll sigh as we watch our frozen seeds get washed away in the snow melt. By midsummer we won’t dare mow because there will be little tiny plants sprouting up everywhere in our yard EXCEPT in the nicely plowed garden, and Mom and I will be wandering around with our heads to the ground trying to identify what’s growing and if it’s edible, and hoping that the whats-its and whatchamacallits ‘bear fruit’ before the Autumn snows.

Okay, not really. By May (I hope) there will be bare ground to plant in, and God willing we’ll have a fantastic harvest of squash, melon, potatoes, kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, onions, peppers, green beans, beets, and herbs. Among other things. But right now I feel like Mrs. Beaver stuck forever in a never-ending winter.

On the Plus Side, the cliffs and mountains of snow lining our driveway are glorious in size, and during the few days it’s warm enough our two boys and Sackett Man enjoy going out and digging tunnels through the packed giants. By the time Spring is actually here, we’ll have the BEST ‘underground’ tunnel system.

I, in the meantime, have been indulging in cooking and baking. I made a cake, for no reason at all, and took Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.00.31 AMan entire afternoon on it. Yep. I baked, I cooled, I stacked, I frosted, I decorated. It was pretty, and it was delicious. Raspberry Silver cake with a lemon butter frosting. Mmmm… I love making cakes. I never have the time I would like to do all of the ones I want to do, but then again I guess that’s a good thing… Sackett Man and I have no desire to match our sons’ growth spurts; two inches every two weeks would put us in dire straits!

The ‘flowers’ are supposed to be purple. I’m not sure what happened in the photographic translation… I also decided I need more practice at making flowers. Professional I am not. But the family sure enjoyed it. It was gone in two days.

I also made molasses cookies. These are some of my favorite cookies, but then I’m a big fan of molasses. Rich, dark, deep tones tantalizing the tastebuds… Try a tablespoon in a cup of milk. Yum!

Anyway, I creamed the butter and the sugar and the egg. Then I added the molasses and creamed some more. (Thank you Mom and Great Grandma for teaching me how to cream with a wooden spoon!)

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.04.48 AMAnd this is how I do dry ingredients. I like to sift it all through my mesh sieve. It takes the lumps out of everything (like the baking soda) so that it is all fine and fluffy and partially mixes everything for you. Then you can finish mixing by hand.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.00 AMAfter combining the dry and wet, I ended up with a VERY thick batter. Time to taste test. Yes? No? Not sure? Taste it again. And again. I think three times is the required number.

Mmm!

Roll by the Tablespoons in sugar and line them on your Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.09 AMpan. Little brown, sparkly balls of goodness just waiting to be eaten! Just make sure you bake them first. That’s a very important step.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.29 AMEight minutes later you will have beautiful brown, sparkly balls of slightly crispy, beautifully soft goodness just waiting to be eaten! And it’s okay, because now they’ve been baked. There’s nothing to stop you now. There was certainly nothing to stop me.

Many of them did make it into my apple cookie jar, I am proud to announce. My self control kicked in soon enough!

This is a family recipe. It’s been made many, many, many times.

~ Molasses Cookies ~ Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.38 AM

  • ³/8 C. Shortening
  • ³/8 C. Butter
  • 1 C. packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ C. Molasses
  • 2 ¾ C. Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Ground Ginger

Cream the Shortening, Butter, Sugar, and Egg. Add the Molasses.
Stir in the dry ingredients.
Scoop by the Tablespoon and form into balls and roll in white sugar. Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350º F for 8=10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chaotic Kablooey

Sensationally Uncontrollable Chaotic Kablooey.

Seriously. I couldn’t think of a better description for the last two weeks.

It started as a mad scramble to get ready something we’ve been trying to find out the date(s) for for a long time. Emails, phone calls, calendar plannings, more emails. The whole family came down with a wicked “spring” cold (please note the sarcasm between those quote marks). Which resulted in more emails and a rearranging of schedules and more back and forth because it meant we couldn’t make a required pre-meeting.

And then my husband’s grandmother, a woman we all loved dearly, had a major stroke, and passed away almost four days later. That was a miserable time.

But now it is a new week, and while there are still, naturally, the wisps of melancholy floating through the air, it is still a new week, and I am trying to focus on the good.

Which brings me to today. A stay-at-home mother, with three kids ages five-and-under. The youngest learned how to crawl last week.

Nothing is safe anymore.

I just got off of facebook, where my sister-in-law posted the FUNNIEST blog another mother wrote about being a parent; the ideas and promises we make ourselves before we have kids, and then the reality afterwards. It was hilarious.

I’m sitting here, laughing and empathizing with this woman about the day-to-day craziness of it all, laughing as she described her own disheveled state (sometimes forgetting to brush her hair before going out, and the antics of getting young kids READY to go out). I sympathized with some of it, and thought “I’m glad I’m not that crazy” with other parts of it. And then I realized something: my life is that crazy.

Last night I took the last leftover piece of dense, fudgy chocolate cake (a new recipe) to my mom’s, to share with her in decadence and complete happiness. It was frosted with dark chocolate ganache. I delightedly removed the lid to the tuppeware, geared up for the big reveal, and my nostrils were immediately teased by a heavy, deep aroma…

… of garlic.

Yup. The last piece of chocolaty heaven had been put away in a piece of tuppeware that had (previously) housed some leftover garlic.

Chocolate-Ala-Garlic-Ganache somehow just isn’t the same.

I woke up this morning and came into the living room to find my husband’s HUGE recliner set three feet from the entertainment center (which houses an electric fireplace). It was so cold this morning that he had huddled there to eat his breakfast, with the fireplace heating away, wrapped in a blanket and cradling his coffee.

I have yet to move it back. Not only is it huge and heavy, but I’m thinking it might be a cozy place to snuggle up the kids for their mid-afternoon movie. (I can’t wait for the heat wave coming later on this week! 33˚F! WHOOT!)

Now I’m sitting here in yoga pants that are too short because somehow they shrank in the wash two years ago and I have yet to move on to new and better things. My hair is unbrushed (but pulled back in a ponytail), a blue stuffed lamb is on the table beside me, and a cold cup of coffee is still waiting at my elbow— mostly finished except for the half-cup of grounds in the bottom (because the filter decided to collapse in on itself as the coffee brewed).

Roman and James, 5 and 2, put away their own clean clothes this morning. The piles were dragged through the house and stuffed into the drawers, the neatly sorted and folded shirts, pants, and pajamas no longer neatly sorted OR folded, instead looking like the result of a natural disaster that was stuffed and hidden away in an attempt to hide the evidence.

But my boys put their own clothes away. Score!

My daughter took her morning nap on the floor, laying on a couch pillow, and covered with an afghan. When she woke up she laid there and bawled because there was no WAY she could possibly roll over and crawl over a flat pillow!

Now she’s happily playing and crawling after her brothers, traversing stuffed animals and pillows and toy helmets like they were nothing.

I just came back from telling my sons that no, they could not use the kitchen stool they were currently balancing on as a jumping off point to leap and flip over the back of the couch and onto the cushions, and to “put the stool back in the kitchen. Now.”

They were quite disappointed. After all, how are they ever going to join Cirque Du Soleil if I never let they DO anything?

I am, oddly enough, unsympathetic.

And now I’m going to finish my drinking my coffee and chewing my grounds. 🙂

Thrill-Seeker, I am

Be amazed: I have driven the stick shift four wheeler for the first time ever! The snow plow was attached to the front for some added fun as I attempted to drive something that is not automatic. (Can you believe I’ve never, ever driven anything other than automatic before?)

I have to say, I was pretty thrilled. Super thrilled.

Now, I’m not comparing driving a four wheeler up and down my driveway, clearing snow, to something like… say… free-climbing a cliff over a pit of bubbling lava, but trying to manhandle something that doesn’t like being manhandled while shifting gears and going from neutral to first and raising the plow and lowering the plow and trying to hold it back when I push too hard on the throttle WAS pretty exciting. Especially when I hit the end of the driveway and had to turn around to head back up, hoping all the while that I wouldn’t stall just as a car came around the bend of road near our house. That would have been tragic.

At least, I think so.

The feat was accomplished, and I successfully went up and down again. As I headed back down the mile-long driveway, lined with trees, for the third time I felt very proud of myself and infinitely adventurous. I thought to myself: “I think I’m more of a thrill-seeker than I realize.”

I know that driving a four-wheeler shouldn’t warrant that kind of thought. But when Sackett Man told my father this morning what he was going to teach me, my dad said: “Watch out. Next thing you know you’ll look outside and catch her doing donuts on your front lawn.”

Hmm…

… I’d been hoping to keep my high school riding lawnmower adventures on the down low.

Of course, with the sparkling eyes that accompanied Sackett Man’s laughter, maybe he knows more than I think he does.

And that says something about him, too. Because he still taught me.

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times…

So why did I decide to start a blog now? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and yesterday it hit me… why not?! What am I waiting for?

So here I am.

Recovering.

Three kids down with the stomach flu, all under the age of five, is no picnic.

That was yesterday. Today was officially labeled as Recovery Day… which has consisted of Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Superman, paper Christmas chains, scrambled eggs, toast, and ginger ale.

The plus side of yesterday: it was gorgeous. It snowed here, on my Wisconsin homestead. Large, puffy flakes floated and swirled gently; magical, white, and serene. It covered the back field and our sloping front lawn in a soft blanket, and settled on the bare branches of trees till the whole wood surrounding us was covered and sparkling.

IMG_4219

I think that’s something we tend to forget. No matter how crummy a situation we find ourselves in, we make it better or worse by deciding what to focus on. My children snuggled with me, hugged me, called for me, and told me they loved me. My baby held my face. My oldest told me thank you. My second laid against me, looked up at me, and said “Hi, Mommy.” Precious moments with them that made everything else worth it.

I looked at that. And the snow.

Not the buckets I was cleaning every 30 minutes.